The 2010 Lexus IS Convertible shares only the hood and dash with its four-door sibling, with the rest re-purposed for the singular task of open-air grand touring. Can Lexus finally get a convertible right?
The Lexus IS is a car which probably doesn't have the following it deserves. Call it the last remaining bastion of brand snobbery, but the Germans simply garner more respect and accolades in the sport sedan segment. While the IS sedan doesn't have the pedigree of a 3-series or a C-Class, it actually has a more sports-biased chassis than either, but it's still something of an also-ran largely because there was nothing in the convertible and coupe segments.
There's not a whole lot of structure in the IS Convertible in common with the IS sedan. The 'vert gets beefed up in nearly every way, with side sills 50% taller, cross-vehicle beams under the rear seats and behind the rear seatbacks, a heftier A-pillar and substantial cross bracing underneath, in total the car is actually two inches longer than the sedan and 340 Lbs heftier. Despite all the reinforcements, the folly of adapting a closed car chassis for convertible duty is apparent in a bit more open-top cowl shimmy over rough pavement than we'd expect in a Lexus product.
Despite the transition to the two-door layout and the additional weight, the chassis is still a peach, it's easy to toss into a corner and control with the throttle, easy to catch as it transitions to oversteer and a hoot to throw through sweeping switchbacks. Unlike the sedan, the additional grunt from the 306 HP 3.5-liter V6 is much appreciated over the smaller 2.5-liter with 204 HP mostly due to the additional weight. The steering wheel-mounted manual-override paddle shifters work, but they're pretty pointless unless you've got transmission control anxiety. The canned programming does an admirable job of predicting your intentions. We did enjoy the snappy stops delivered by the F-Sport package and its giant cross drilled brakes and more aggressive wheels and tires, they also bring a dash of excitement to the look of the car.
With the three-piece aluminum top closed, things are fairly solid, quiet and conservative, while being as luxurious as the segment demands. The front seats are unique to the convertible and feature a new, thinner frame to maximize rear legroom, but unless we're talking a full family of midgets there's only room enough for two up front and bags in the rear. The only reason you'll ever use the power forward folding seat option would be to access the back seat storage shelves. A neat new trick in the audio system is the option to stream music from Bluetooth equipped handheld devices. One of the few flaws we found was the LCD touch screen tends to get washed out a bit by the sun with the top down, otherwise everything from the leather to the most inconsequential switches are top notch. After the 20 seconds it takes to fold the tin top away, trunk space is a bit snug, with room for a single golf bag, in top-up mode the trunk is comparable to most large sedans.
Much like every other Lexus on the market, this new convertible doesn't really have any glaring faults. Unlike the sedan, the IS C is a competent grand tourer, but not a sports car. It may look the part, but the lack of a more rigid body relegates it to cruiser status. Most importantly, the IS Convertible is a raging deal for the segment. It starts at $38k and the fully-equipped $43k model is still cheaper than the base 3-series convertible.